1 October 2021 — Big Brother Watch
Big Brother Watch Team
This week, the Government released another consultation into Covid passports – this time, on how a mandatory Covid passport scheme should work.
This comes despite the Government’s claims that they are not going to impose Covid IDs and they are merely a ‘Plan B’ reserve policy.
The consultation is not designed to genuinely seek views on whether Covid passports should be imposed or not, in our view, but to garner statistical support for the Government’s pre-existing plans for a mandatory scheme.
Nevertheless, we would encourage everyone to take part. With our help, it can take just 2 minutes to share your views.
Click here to open the consultation in a new tab…
Proposal for mandatory COVID certification in a Plan B scenario: call for evidence
The first few questions ask you for your name and email address – this is optional.
The next questions ask for demographic information such as your gender, age group, ethnicity, and disabilities.
The types of settings in which Covid passports will be required include all nightclubs, some sports and music events. The question presumes support for Covid-status certification and only offers multiple choice responses. You may wish to select the response “ the list captures too many settings”.
Who should be excluded from certification?
Visitors and staff
The first question asks whether you would like visitors to a venue to be vaccinated or unvaccinated. In our view, this is a trick question – it is highly unlikely that anyone would specifically want everyone in a space to be unvaccinated, but if someone mistakenly selects this response to this confusing question, their responses will likely be segmented and dismissed as “anti-vaccination”.
We believe that the majority of people will, and should, select “I don’t mind either way”. The second question asks how strongly you agree that everyone in a space should be required to be vaccinated to enter. We “strongly disagree”.
The third question asks the same but in relation to workers at relevant venues, and interestingly includes a test option for workers (hinting towards future policy). We “strongly disagree”.
The next question asks if you think workers undergoing mandatory testing should be supervised or unsupervised for tests; and whether certification should apply to all workers or just those in customer-facing roles. We selected “I don’t know” to avoid generating statistics that implicitly support mandatory testing of any kind, and expressed our dissatisfaction in the comment box that the questions were framed in this restrictive way.
The consultation outlines a small number of proposed exemptions to the Covid passport scheme and asks if you think there should be more. We say “yes” – everyone!
The next page gives you a text box to expand on your previous answer in 150 words.
Protected groups and final comments
The next page asks about the impact of Covid passports on protected groups (i.e. groups protected by equality laws).
The first question asks if you think any protected groups would benefit from Covid passports. We believe the opposite is true.
The second question asks if you think any protected groups would be disadvantaged by Covid passports. We said:
In particular, young people, older people without smart phones, women, pregnant women, religious groups and groups with other protected beliefs, and minority ethnic groups will suffer discrimination under a Covid certification scheme. This is due to a number of complex reasons including lower uptake, digital divide, and more frequent experiences of discriminatory targeting.
The third question invites any final comments, in 500 words. We said:
There is no evidence that covid passes will improve public health. The only parliamentary committee to analyse Covid passes in detail, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), concluded that there is “no justification for them in the science and none in logic”.
A vaccine ID does not tell you that an individual does not have covid or cannot spread covid. Vaccination status primarily tells the individual about their own risk of illness from the virus.
Those most vulnerable to covid-19 are highly protected from serious illness. Over 90% of people aged over 16 years old across the four nations have received a first dose, and 98% of the population has antibodies (PHE).
The available vaccines are not able to prevent infections or transmission of the virus. Whilst the vaccines have drastically cut severe illness, hospitalisations and deaths, Imperial College’s REACT study found they have little over 50% efficacy in preventing infections. The Health Secretary can attest to this, as he contracted Covid in July.
The Government’s own covid certification review in July 2021 concluded that the “burden” of covid passes would be “disproportionate” to any benefits, and that they should not be mandated. Since then, vaccination rates have only increased – so it is unclear what the Government’s policy change is in aid of. If the Government’s analysis is that the situation is worse now than it was in July, the case for vaccine passes would be weakened further still, as vaccination coverage is considerably greater than it was in July.
Mass testing is not the answer. The MHRA, senior advisors at the Department of Health, and the Royal Statistical Society have all voiced concerns about the Government’s use of mass testing. Lateral flow tests (LFTs) suffer from inaccuracy and miss the majority (60%) of asymptomatic infections – the very purpose they would be deployed for. The Innova LFTs, which the Government has spent £3bn on, do not meet the acceptable standards set by the WHO for confirming or ruling out COVID-19 whilst the FDA issued an urgent recall of the tests due to accuracy issues and urged people to put them “in the trash”.
As PACAC concluded, there is no justification for covid passes in science and none in logic.
The final screen asks how satisfied you were with the consultation, and where you heard about it. If you are “disappointed”, the next screen will ask “what could we do better”?